by Julian Spivey
Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”, one of the year’s best reviewed movies, lives up to all the hype and more with the touching story of two unusual 12-year olds experiencing first love while running away from home on a New England island in 1965.
Anderson is a very idiosyncratic and quirky director who I’ve failed to really warm up to in the only two previous films of his that I’d seen “Rushmore” (despite its status as a modern classic) and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”. Both movies featured Bill Murray in a starring role and despite finding it hard to dislike a Murray film that’s exactly how I felt about both films. Thus, I went into this new film with trepidation despite reading raving reviews and finding the trailer intriguing.
Whereas the quirkiness of the previous Anderson films I’d seen was a little overdone for my tastes I thought the quirk (and there was plenty of it) was extremely charming and just right in “Moonrise Kingdom”, co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is the story of 12-year old Khaki Scout (like Boy Scouts) member Sam Shakusky, an orphan unhappily living with a family that takes in orphaned boys, and Suzy Bishop, a troubled 12-year old who lives with her peculiar family in which her attorney parents (played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) aren’t that close or loving. After seemingly being afflicted with love at first sight, the two hatch a plan to run away from their unhappy homes together.
The unbridled quirkiness of the two kids mixed with the cutesy, charming innocence of young love is an extremely winning combination that just makes the movie work and probably will make it one of the year’s best movies come year’s end. I’ll be highly disappointed if it’s not included among Oscar’s best picture nominees, as well as Anderson for best director.
“Moonrise Kingdom” features extremely intriguing, funny and emotionally moving performances from a fantastic supporting cast that features Murray, McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman (who, along with Murray, seems to show up in every Anderson film) and Harvey Keitel, but the surprise of the movie and why the movie worked as well as it did was the truly sensational performances by the new comer child leads: Jared Gilmore and Kara Hayward, both of whom have a nice career ahead of them if they so wish to remain in film.
The relationship between Sam and Suzy just exudes innocence at its most spectacular in every scene the two appear in, none greater than the beach scene in which the two, stripped down to their skivvies after taking a swim awkwardly dance to a French record (Suzy’s favorite) and then physically embrace before falling asleep together in a pup tent (Sam using his Scout skills). It’s a relationship and a film made for both those nostalgic for the past and dreamers who wish they could have once shared such moments or still hope too.
There are just too many laugh out loud quirky moments that feel just right in this movie that you couldn’t name them all if you had the time, but among the best are the reveal of Suzy’s stash of cat food for her kitten when Sam suggests it can feast off of the guts and eyes from their fish dinner, a topless Bill Murray announcing that he’s going out in the dark to chop down a tree after presuming his daughter’s loss of innocence and the way that Bruce Willis and Edward Norton both protectively jump at Social Services’ (Tilda Swinton) mistakenly thinking Sam stabbed a fellow Khaki Scout.
While the performances and script are ultimately the defining things about “Moonrise Kingdom” it’s also one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen in a while, with Anderson’s unique, often yellowy-orange-ish color palette adding to this film’s nostalgia and quirk. Anderson more than proves he’s not just a good director, but an artist.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is definitely a treat that all true film lovers should partake in and will likely treasure upon seeing. “Moonrise Kingdom” is 94 minutes long and rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking (seriously viewing smoking is detrimental for those under 13?).
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